Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you will no doubt have been eagerly anticipating the new Roots Manuva LP Slime & Reason just as much as I have. Officially out on 1st September on Big Dada, but emphatically reviewed right here on Jus Like Music and right now.

Since appearing on the Blak Twang single Queen’s Head back in 1994, our man Rodney Smith has released five LPs on Big Dada (the Ninja Tune hip-hop imprint) – but here we are on the cusp of his sixth full release. Roots Manuva is well renowned for his gritty street-narrative lyricist style and his array of hip-hop beats, often laced with ragga or dancehall influences. Who could forget the immortal Witness (1 Hope), often seen as the king of UK hip-hop tracks – but although it is tracks like Witness that spring to the forefront of your mind whilst thinking of Roots Manuva, it’s the albums that he has delivered that pay him his reverence.

Tracklisting:

01. Again & Again
02. C.R.U.F.F.
03. Do Nah Bodda Mi
04. Let The Spirit
05. Kick Up Ya Foot
06. A Man’s Talk
07. Buff Nuff
08. It’s Me Oh Lord
09. 2 Much 2 Soon
10. Do 4 Self
11. The Show Must Go On
12. I’m A New Man
13. Well Alright
14. Struggle

The LP begins with the second single, Again & Again, a party banger with a definitive ragga angle – this is simple, yet effective, and there is no denying that the chorus is addictive. Up next is C.R.U.F.F., a darker tale with a bit of grit, but just as likely to get that head nodding. Then it’s straight into the hypnotic dancehall track Do Nah Bodda Mi – if this catches you in the wrong mood then you might reach for that skip button, but – and although it is early in the review to say – this LP has huge grower potential and after a few listens it will grow on you like beautiful fungus!

Let The Spirit brings us into proper banger territory. This is a wicked blend of contemporary electronic sounds and tight hip-hop beats. Not sure I’ve heard a Roots Manuva track quite like this before, but it’s a sure fire winner. It manages to combine catchy electronic synth samples with a progressive beat and that oh-so-smooth Manuva cypher. You’ll be sticking this one on repeat, that’s doctors’ orders.

mp3: Roots Manuva – Let The Spirit

Continuing the trend of ear-catching ditties, Kick Up Ya Foot hits it hard with strong beats and stabs of various samples. It’s hip-hop, but not as we know it. Perhaps it is testament to Roots Manuva’s years of success that he’s never really played the hip-hop game strictly by the book. A Man’s Talk contributes levels of depth as a track offering a darker narrative and a more serious tone. Poignancy meets tight production in a track that acts both as a head nodding beat affair and a thought provoking tale for the lyric-heads. Buff Nuff, the first single to be taken from the LP, is an uptempo dancehall affair with a mean bassline and chorus, another killer that wont let you sit still.

The second half of Slime & Reason begins with one of my favourite tracks from the LP, It’s Me Oh Lord. This is quintessential Roots Manuva. Tough beats, heavy bass and a ridiculously slick cypher. Rodney’s rhymes always deliver with such brutal honesty and on this track we get a prime example of this fact. The production is tight and it all just comes together. Top tune.

mp3: Roots Manuva – It’s Me Oh Lord

Carrying on in a similar vein is 2 Much 2 Soon. This track with it’s horn stabs and synths has an eerie sense of depth and sincerity and as Roots sings; “there’s too much, too soon, too little, too late”. Given that we have quite the array of hip-hop beats, brass, singing, rapping and synths, this at no point sounds over-produced or seems over-bearing, it’s intricate with its balance and provides smooth execution. Do 4 Self is a slightly lighter track, but carries a good groove nevertheless – riding on the cusp of glitchy electro, whilst staying accessible to the urban fraternity. The longest track on the LP is The Show Must Go On, at six minutes long. Less upbeat than a lot of the tracks on the album, it relies more upon the sung verses and the fresh narrative on life and its various pitfalls.

As heard recently on the Jus Like Music Volume 26 podcast, I’m A New Man begins the final section of Slime & Reason. This is more proper banger material. Hard beats and electronic stabs cruise wildly along with the Manuva words. The penultimate track is Well Alright, and from the get-go it seems to be vintage Roots Manuva, sweet melodies and treacherous rhythms. At parts of his cypher, Roots takes an almost more raw tone, and it’s definitely fresh sounding. The Struggle acts as the outro and it’s a steady, soulful affair – calm, yet firm.

It’s worth mentioning that besides Roots Manuva’s obvious contributions, Slime & Reason also features guest production from both Toddla T and Metronomy. Combined efforts have given us an extremely fresh sounding LP that will struggle to be classified purely under any one genre – but for someone that has been billed as the Saviour of UK Hip-Hop in the past, Roots Manuva has never really sounded quite like his supposed contemporaries. Slime & Reason has some off-the-bat bangers, for sure, but the real beauty is in the repeated listens. It’s definitely a bit of a grower and on various levels it will get that head nodding at one point or another – get it checked, it’s out on Monday (1st September).